IT would be nice to think Wimbledon has been put back a week in the calendar so the ladies’ final does not clash with the Coral Eclipse.
Nice, though unlikely. Either way, don’t fall into the trap of thinking the highlight of Sandown’s flat season does not matter. Because it does. It has mattered ever since it was first run back in 1886, as then it was the richest race in Britain with a prize of £10,000. And it is as important now as it was then.
Take a look at the roll call of winners. Dancing Brave anyone? Pebbles, Nashwan, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard and Mtoto twice. They’d all walk tall in any hall of fame. Okay, they were generations ago, but Sea the Stars rocked up at Sandown six years ago and took the prize during his season of unprecedented glory.
The Eclipse has been run over a mile and a quarter since it came into being. It was once regarded as an interim distance, but is now seen as the true test of a thoroughbred as speed takes precedence over stamina.
It also marks the first time the Classic generation get to take on their elders at Group 1 level.
And it has thrown up some classic moments down the years. If you get a moment, check out the 2000 running on Youtube, a race which saw the winner, Giant’s Causeway, earn himself the nickname The Iron Horse. Really, it’s a stunner. George Duffield, all 53 years of him, gave him the ride of a lifetime to hold off a field including Kalanisi, Fantastic Light and Sakhee. To give you some idea of the form, the horses he beat later went on to win two Breeders’ Cup Turfs and an Arc between them.
And from superb races to superb rides. Step forward Ryan Moore. Again, back to Youtube. Look at the ride he gave 2007 winner Notnowcato (click here to watch). Moore is the only jockey to bring his horse to the better ground on the stands side as he steals the prize from Derby winner Authorized and the previous year’s 2000 Guineas hero George Washington. John Francome later remarked that Moore must have been the only jockey to walk the course beforehand. Fellow pundit Chris Dixon remarked that it was “a fine tactical ride”. Which is a bit like saying Lionel Messi can kick the ball a bit.